Life at breakneck speed: the Amelie Lens interview

Pictures by Annika Wallis

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Amelie Lens’ career is unstoppable. In anticipation of her Exhale event in Antwerp, she takes a moment to reflect on the current state of play.

Besides waffles and chocolate, techno is right up there in the list of Belgium’s most famous export products. In no small part, that's because of the efforts of one incredible 29-year-old talent. Amelie Lens' career is like an unstoppable train at the moment: she's selling out large venues across the globe every week, she regularly churns out techno anthems, and she's pushing her record label Lenske forward with record speed. Her boundless love for dark, hard techno is only matched by her drive to reach as many fans as possible.

You’re lucky to catch a glimpse of Amelie playing on Belgian soil – and next week, you can. On Saturday February 1, she’s taking her renowned EXHALE  rave to her hometown, Antwerp, inviting Dubfire, Farrago, Helena Hauff and Milo Spykers (amongst many others) with her. Scroll down if you fancy a chance to win 2x2 spots on the guestlist (we hear it's selling out quickly). In a rare moment of rest, we caught up with Amelie to get an update on the jet rocket that is her daily life.

How have you changed as a DJ, compared to those first days playing international gigs?

“My sets were always high energy (except for the vinyl Sunday sessions I did at home), but over the years the BPM has gone up considerably. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that music is going faster and faster across many genres”.

EXHALE is becoming one of techno’s finest nights around. What’s the long term strategy behind the brand?

“In the last years, we tried to focus on upcoming talent. Although sometimes, we combined the old and the new generation on one bill. We’re lucky that our fans are open to discover new artists, while also appreciating the names that have been influencing our scene for years. We have a lot going on with Exhale this year. I don't know if you would call it a strategy, but the brand is being built on community. We all remember moments we've shared on the dancefloor or at a festival. For Exhale, we want to bring people together, and that’s what our events aim to do. It’s also pretty fun choosing locations; there are so many places to discover”.

Pretty quickly, it became clear Lenske was growing fast: people were making their own merchandise, and I’ve seen many Lenske tattoos too.

Even though it was only founded in 2018, Lenske is slowly becoming Belgium’s premier techno outlet. Where does the label fit into your universe?

“Thank you! When I first got the idea to start my own label, Lenske was supposed to be a ‘small’ record label. At first, we even considered doing vinyl-only releases without showcases and merchandise. Pretty quickly, it became clear we were growing fast: people were making their own merchandise, and I’ve seen many Lenske tattoos too. That enthusiasm is just plain crazy. Our imprint was simply growing out of control. I'm happy we changed our minds about the vinyl-only approach because I believe music should be accessible to anyone. We might have to launch merchandise soon too, so people don’t have to buy a ‘fake’ one online”.

Is techno in a good place right now?

"For me, it is. The rise of the internet made techno reach so many new people. There are listeners of my music in cities I have never been to. At the same time, it’s been a bit weird at times, though. I noticed I got some booking requests from events that normally focus on a more commercial sound. I’ve always tried only to do gigs where I believe the crowd will understand what I do”.

You’re known to be a workaholic - and you’ve taken steps back in the past to make sure you don’t go into overdrive. With so many dates, your own international event series and your own record label, how do you make sure to keep a clear mind?

“It's not been easy, and I'm lucky to have a fantastic team around me to help me out wherever they can. I'm a perfectionist, so if I do something, I want to do it properly. Learning to say ‘no’ is part of that. Often other artists and managers tell me they don’t understand why I refuse some of the big opportunities that come my way. It’s always a risk turning stuff down, of course, as those bookers might not ask me again, but it's crucial for me that whatever I do, I have the time to put my entire soul in it. Luckily, until now, everyone has been patient, and most of the things I did not feel ready to do a while ago are happening in 2020”.

Your fanbase is incredibly active and loyal, yet you remain very much in contact (in so far that’s possible) with your audience. How have you learned to deal with that?

“It doesn't feel like I had to learn it. To me, it feels natural to speak and interact with people who come to my gigs and support my music. I really do want to interact with them”. 

Sometimes I consider moving from Antwerp, but this place reminds me of who I am.

This year you moved into a smaller flat in Antwerp. Is this city still the best place for an artist of your size?

“Indeed, the apartment is not that big. I used to live here when I was a student eight years ago. When it went up for sale, I bought it, renovated it, and moved in! It’s a great location and very quiet, even though it’s right in the city centre. Sometimes I consider moving, but this place reminds me of who I am. I travel the world and see the most beautiful places, but that isn’t the life I want. I want to stay humble and real. Additionally, I’m saving up to buy a farm! It’s my dream to have a rescue farm. It won’t be easy combining this with my schedule, but let’s see”.

As your career seems to become larger than life, which goals could still possibly have been left unchecked?

“On a professional level, many! I will be doing some of them in 2020. On a personal level, I want to find a better balance between life and work. Important events from family or friends are always happening on the weekends when I'm unavailable. That can be hard sometimes, like when I’m super tired at the airport, thinking about how I missed my cousin’s wedding. It seems like people around me understand the situation, and try to adjust when they can. That said, I vouch to make more time for them in the future”.